Autumn Meadows Published

Leininger Goes Above And Beyond At Moorefield Elementary School

A woman stands in front of colorful glass doors smiling. She wears a yellow shirt, black pants, glasses and holds a blue Blenko Glass apple paperweight.
Dawnell Leininger, a second grade teacher at Moorefield Elementary School in Hardy County, is WVPB's March 2024 Above and Beyond winner.
Autumn Meadows/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Dawnell Leininger, a second grade teacher at Moorefield Elementary School in Hardy County, earned West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Above and Beyond Award for March 2024, which recognizes excellence and creativity of Mountain State teachers.

Leininger was presented the award by WVPB’s Education Director Maggie Holley during the students’ lunch and was surprised to also have her husband in attendance. She received a monetary award and a signature Blenko Glass blue apple paperweight. The West Virginia State Treasurers’ Office sponsors the award, presenter of the SMART529 college savings program in the Mountain State.

Leininger has been a teacher for 11 years and was nominated by her daughter Abigail for her compassion, creativity and hard work in the classroom.

“Mrs. Leininger is constantly looking for new ways to help her students grow,” said her daughter. She mentions her mother’s active involvement in the school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) days, coordinating holiday programs, creating a new class behavior program, volunteering to deliver meals to children and creative strategies for supporting the English Language Learners in her classroom.

In addition to her classroom responsibilities, Leininger also volunteers to be a mentor for teachers in training. These student teachers will observe and teach different lessons. Leininger says she enjoys being able to help others find resources and by sharing some tricks she’s learned that has made classroom management easier over the years. She is also always sure to check in with the newer teachers and long-term substitute teachers in the building.

A photo of three people standing in front of colorful glass doors. Two women and one man.
(left to right) Moorefield Elementary School Assistant Principal Shanda Walker, WVPB’s March 2024 Above and Beyond winner Dawnell Leininger and Moorefield Elementary School Principal Wade Armentrout.

Photo Credit: Autumn Meadows/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The demographics of Leininger’s school is unlike others in West Virginia. They have a large variety of languages represented in their school whether it be their parents work at a local factory, they’re refugees or other circumstances. Leininger and her colleagues go above and beyond to make sure all English Language Learners are supported by adapting lessons, providing labels, and coming up with games and activities to make learning new letters and sounds fun. They also are sure to include the variety of customs during holidays. “It is amazing to watch a student come here without any knowledge of our language and pick up the words so quickly. They have such a zeal to learn as much as they can.”

Leininger also helps organize a Thanksgiving program every year. “The classes work together to perform a short skit. One skit is a traditional telling of the Pilgrims landing in America, the other skit is a cute skit told from the perspective of a turkey begging Congress to pardon him and his family from being the main course at Thanksgiving. We have rewritten the play to include our therapy dog as a character as well.” They have also begun to add a Veteran’s Day portion to the program that showcases photographs of students’ family members that have served or are currently serving as a slideshow while guests are arriving. 

When asked what her favorite activity in the classroom would be, Leininger said March Madness Dr. Seuss style. This consists of a bracket of 16 Dr. Seuss books, and when each class reads a book, they vote on their favorites. Leininger’s class then adds up the votes from the entire school. “The students love hearing the results on the announcements.”

In addition to holiday programs, STEM days and mentoring, Leininger also coaches the afterschool book club to encourage readers to be challenged with higher level thinking. “We did escape rooms, compared and contrasted different gingerbread man stories and then they had to create their own gingerbread house. We wrote stories and redesigned covers of books to name a few things.”

Each month, WVPB has an esteemed panel of judges that select one deserving teacher who goes above and beyond for the students in West Virginia. If you know of a deserving teacher who goes “Above and Beyond,” please click here to nominate them.